Join Date: Feb 2007
| | Justin Mccully Article from UFC.com GOOD READ
Justin McCully: ‘Insane’ or Genius?
By Elliot Worsell
There’s a common school of thought that suggests the path to genius requires a substantial dose of insanity. A screw loose somewhere. A willingness to go places and see things regular beings would shirk or find an excuse to avoid.
Inside the Octagon, the same theory applies
Most humans, no matter how determined, would tap when Matt Hughes hyperextends their arm in an armbar. Whether you call it genius or crazy, Royce Gracie didn’t. Arm on the verge of snapping, Gracie remained steadfast in his refusal to submit, eventually forcing Hughes to reassess the situation and scupper the armbar attempt. There was no shame in submitting to Hughes – Gracie would go on to lose anyhow – but it was a combination of bravery and insanity that allowed Gracie to calmly consider thoughts most beings would have disregarded at the moment their arm stretched.
Heavyweight Justin ‘The Insane One’ McCully offered an insight into his mindset last April when, in his UFC debut, Antoni Hardonk trapped his arm in a deep and juicy armbar. It was the opening round of McCully’s first UFC fight and he had two lines of thinking – the human way or the insane way.
“I was thinking if I tap out to a kickboxer nobody’s ever going to respect me again,” reflected McCully. “I’ll have my jiu-jitsu black belt taken back off me. I couldn’t go out like that in my first fight. If I got armbarred by a kick boxer I’d never be able to show my face again anywhere.
“I’d rather have him break my arm or rip it away from my body than tap out and concede defeat like that. It was immensely painful, but I was never going to tap. You’ve got to leave your body parts behind. If they’re gonna take it and break it you’ve got to let them.”
McCully’s ‘insanity’ has brought him to 1-0 in the UFC, with a decision win over Hardonk. If he’d have succumbed to more rational thoughts while underneath Hardonk, his record would be reversed and he’d be looking at a bleak climb back up the ladder. As it is, McCully is now gearing up for a marquee match at UFC 86 against Brazilian jiu-jitsu wiz Gabriel Gonzaga. An insane fight for a guy dubbed ‘The Insane One’?
“Knowing what I know and being a UFC fan I’d definitely give Gonzaga the edge,” assessed the refreshingly honest McCully. “That’s exciting for me, though. I like to be the underdog and I like to be doubted. I like people saying I have no chance because it makes me hungry, angry and eager to go out there and show people what I can do.”
Keeping the balance between bravado and reality, McCully isn’t the kind of fighter to evade the truth. Whatever that may be. Confident yet cautious, McCully knows where the fight will be won and lost on July 5th.
“I feel like we match up really well,” continued the Huntington Beach heavyweight. “I think my wrestling is better than his. Our jiu-jitsu is pretty similar – maybe he has the advantage there - and our stand-up is pretty equal. Whatever way you look at it, wherever it goes, it’s going to be an interesting fight. I looked at his strengths and worked a gameplan to nullify those things and accentuate my own skills.
“Anytime you get to fight one of the top quality guys in the division you’ve got to be excited about it. At the same time, I know he’s a dangerous fighter and, if I’m completely honest, I’d have probably rather matched up with (Frank) Mir than Gonzaga at this point. It is what it is. When Joe Silva says this is your match you’ve got to be prepared for it.”
McCully is most certainly prepared. Unable to work with Team Punishment for this fight, McCully set up camp on his own terms and directed his blood, sweat and tears towards a new incentive in his life.
“Training was awesome,” he said. “We had a good six week camp – an ‘Insane One’s camp. I had a daughter six weeks ago, and right after I had my daughter I dedicated all my time to training. I haven’t spent as much time with my daughter as I’d have liked, but I’m ready to bring home some of that bonus money for her. I have a seven-year-old as well and everything’s dedicated to those two from now on. I’m looking forward to getting back in there and having some fun.”
McCully hasn’t had fun in an Octagon for over 15 months. Since that coming-out decision victory over Hardonk, McCully has been injured, inactive and bitterly frustrated.
“There’s nothing worse than being left on the sidelines,” admitted McCully. “I’m a gamer. I’m a player. Win, lose or draw, I’m the kind of guy that just loves being out there and finding out about myself. You can train in the gym all day, but there’s no real truth, no glory or even fun in that. When you’re in front of the crowd you can showcase your skills and feed off the fans’ energy. That’s what I live for.
“I had surgery on my elbow on January 27 and have been rehabbing ever since - putting it back together. I’ve been pushing myself in training and I feel great. You never know how well it will hold up until you get into the Octagon, but right now I feel wonderful. There’s always that bit of doubt in the back of your mind, but I’m trying to push delete on those kinds of thoughts and think positively.”
Ultimately, positive thinking is a necessity against a fighter as well-versed as Gonzaga. Dangerous on both the floor and his feet – just ask Mirko Cro Cop – Gonzaga is a man who is hard to read and hard to beat. Although coming off back-to-back losses to Randy Couture and Fabricio Werdum, McCully expects a revitalised Gonzaga to step into the Octagon on July 5th.
“Gabriel had some personal issues which probably didn’t let him prepare 100 per cent for those fights (Couture and Werdum),” said McCully. “My heart goes out for him on that. I’m expecting Gonzaga to be 100 per cent physically and mentally ready and he’ll bring more to the table than what he brought to guys like Werdum and Couture.
“I look for Gabriel to come right out and take me down. He’s sort of got away from his home base of taking guys down recently – when he knocked out Cro Cop he got a little too into the striking. He had a striking match with Couture and it didn’t really work out for him. He tried to strike with Werdum and he got stopped. I think he’ll see himself as the bigger guy and try and do something similar to the job he did on Carmelo Marrero. I’ll look to have fun on the ground if it goes there. I’ve been working extensively on my ground game in training and we’ll see who has the better game on the night.”
The 32-year-old McCully continued: “Even at his best, I’m confident of my chances. Gonzaga has that big knockout win over (Mirko) Cro Cop and that surprised everybody but, other than that, there isn’t any real evidence of greatness there.”
No amount of analysis can escape the fact that McCully’s Achilles heel in the Hardonk battle could potentially play into Gonzaga’s hands next Saturday night. A ferocious ground-and-pounder in the Team Punishment tradition, McCully is sometimes susceptible to leaving his arm dangling as he goes in for the kill. Against Hardonk, this lapse was akin to continuously dipping one’s arm into a fish tank and being nipped at by eager goldfish. Against BJJ expert Gonzaga, it’ll be piranhas hunting that arm.
“That’s always the danger,” laughed McCully, as though it’s been
playing on his mind since the fight was made. “Whenever you get into a ground-and-pound situation there’s always the danger of having your arm caught when you’re punching or elbowing. A big guy like Gonzaga can snatch it up at any second. I’m definitely aware of that and I’m doing my best to avoid leaving that arm behind.”
Aside from the dangling of arms, McCully’s breakout win over kickboxing specialist Hardonk was, for the most part, impressive. Well, on paper anyway. McCully is the first to admit the performance, although necessary for an opponent like Hardonk, wasn’t on many people’s shortlist for Fight of the Year.
“I’ve heard both sides have their say on that performance,” McCully reasoned. “Some say I took him down, beat him up and did what I had to do. The critics say it was a lacklustre fight, I didn’t look good and I seemed gassed. I take both sides of the argument on board.
“I had three weeks to prepare for that fight and the first fight in the Octagon is really something else. You experience some genuine Octagon shock and it’s a major thing to just get in the ring in front of all those people, all those stars and the television cameras. You don’t get that stuff at the smaller events. Just getting to the Octagon is the hardest part about a UFC fight. The fighting’s easy. Unfortunately, I think I got swallowed up by the hype a little bit.”
Aside from a bout of infamous Octagon shock, McCully is armed with another reason for his, some might say, ‘lacklustre’ showing.
“It’s all about conditioning,” he admitted. “I came in much too heavy for that fight. I think I was about 248 pounds and was a little slow on my feet. I felt like I had a lot of power and strength at that weight but I simply wasn’t in good shape. 235 pounds is probably my best weight.”
Whether 248 or 235 pounds, McCully is just happy to be part of the UFC. Forever known as Tito Ortiz’ exuberant sidekick, it’s now time for ‘The Insane One’ to carve his own path – to make his own name. Ask McCully and he’ll agree with Sam Cooke. It’s been a long time coming.
“I was wondering why they (the UFC) took so long,” laughed McCully. “I was always handling the pros and UFC veterans that I worked with in the gym. I went back and forth with those guys and coped fine. I felt like I was always ready for the UFC and definitely had the ability to become a contender. I just basically waited for the day and, yeah, I think it probably did take a little too long.”
Nonetheless, the Tito connection has proven to be both a help and hindrance during McCully’s slow-burning jog to the UFC.
“When you’re with Tito it’s the ‘Tito Ortiz Show’,” Justin explained. “It’s cool, he’s a brother of mine, and I’ll help him out to the day I die. But he does kind of overshadow you in a way, and I definitely feel it is now my time to do my thing and show people what I can do.
“I was never Tito’s student – quite the contrary, in fact. We were sparring partners. We both taught each other and we both had things to learn from one another. It was more a partnership than a student-teacher relationship, and I think that was misunderstood by a lot of people.”
Is it beyond the realms of possibility that McCully can replicate Ortiz’ success and hold a UFC title? Nah, that would be insane. Then again, a little bit of insanity hasn’t hurt Justin McCully so far.
"I’m ready. It doesn’t matter with who or where. On foot or on horseback. With maces or poleaxes. To fight. To first blood or to death. It doesn’t matter, I’m ready to fight. "